Friday, June 27, 2014

Week 7 Blog post

After reading week 7’s articles on nation branding, an idea stuck with me from Rasmussen and Merkelson’s article. Aside from some exaggerations, such as claiming that Joseph Nye felt that soft power was the foundation of foreign policy, when he was simultaneously espousing smart power as soft power’s successor; the article does a good job of framing perception and branding in terms of security and risk.
After the authors establish that states are increasingly defining their security in terms of risk, they identify secondary risk, or reputational risk, as a facetious element of risk when applied to security. The authors are right to critique the use of reputational measures and nation branding statistics as an indicator of a state’s security as such statistics are only one measure of broad opinions in a world where security risks can come in any shape or size.
However, what the authors get wrong is their dismissal of secondary risk, such as reputation because it is “a purely ‘man-made’product of social interaction and communication”, or that it is based on “attitudes and perceptions alone” rather than “brute facts”. As someone that facilitates risk assessments, I find their analysis to be disappointing at best. Reputation matters in terms of security for more reasons than I could describe in a short time. Suffice to say the single biggest issue is targeting, while the decision to do harm may rely on a ‘brute fact’ such as the possession of weapons that can do harm, the decision on how to use them in inextricably linked to reputation.
If an anti-U.S. militia in oil-rich country X didn’t have enough gas to reach an American facility, but did have access to a pair of oil facilities owned and secured by US allies and all things were equal except their perception of the two allies ability to fight, the militia would pick the target they perceived to be weaker. Let say they saw a Danish flag through their binoculars at the first facility and a number of Danish soldiers on patrol, Danish soldiers have a particular reputation for combat proficiency. As such, the militia checks and sees a Japanese flag at the alternate facility, and they see an equal number of armed soldiers on patrol. The militia will attack the Japanese facility all things being equal because Japan has a less imposing military and reputation when compared to Denmark. The militia just made a logical and predictable decision based on reputation and perception.
As the militia’s decision was predictable, the Japanese stationed a garrison of 100 soldiers at their facility, and wiped the militia out while the Danes only deployed 30 soldiers to theirs and deployed the remaining 70 somewhere else with the knowledge that in lieu of detailed intelligence, the militias would reasonably attack the Japanese facility. Further hypothetical argument to support the validity of perception and reputation in security, if a well fortified U.S. facility was also accessible to the same militia, there’s a reasonable likelihood that the militia will put their intangible beliefs ahead of “brute facts” and attack the American’s anyways, because regardless of the fact that the U.S., Denmark, and Japan are all protecting and extracting oil, the U.S. poor reputation makes it bigger target.

The authors also fail to describe in any detail the measures that they are arguing are not applicable, their language suggests the nation branding and public diplomacy measures they are discussing are quantitative, in which case the authors should actually be arguing against the quantification of risk and not the relevance of perception and reputation.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Week 6 - Anju

There are a variety of limitations and problems that can occur with the new and distinct turn towards the use of public diplomacy for public diplomacy. Digital outreach has now seemingly become more crucial through its incorporation into news and has often sparked worldwide political debate through the use of things like the hashtag terminology on Twitter. With these factors in mind it seems that despite limitations, public diplomacy would do well to understand and learn to harness the potential value that social media can play into means of engagement. Despite the challenges listed below, social media has the innovative opportunity to help establish a global audience and to reach and teach more people through simply statements, links and tools.

However, there are many limitations involved. First and foremost, is that, as we read in earlier lectures, social media is often seen as a limiting device for personal contact with viewers. This is often better offered by in-person events at embassies or otherwise. But, these social experiences offer methods to contact and make more personal connections with individuals who may be interested in information regarding another country. Social media cannot relate this personal touch that is lost with the anonymity of online communication. Another limitation is the need for trained professional experience to use social media most effectively. Obtaining accounts like Facebook and Twitter and fast, free, and efficient but when these accounts are not strategically used, the results will appear less desirable. A popular phrase in social media professions - “you only get out of it, what you put into it.” Time and effort must be placed heavily on social media accounts to ensure that public diplomacy strategies come to fruition.

Monday, June 23, 2014

I've sort of morphed the engagement and social media questions into one here. I'm not an avid social media user by any means but I have a Facebook and Twitter and sometimes I wonder to myself what am I trying to say (or "engage" in) when I "like" a post, an organization, etc or retweet a news article or comment. It's a nearly mindless, albeit somewhat benevolent, action that I may or may not ever really think about again in any meaningful way.  In terms of public diplomacy, engagement needs to go beyond this sort of popularity visibility contest that comes with nearly everything that is posted on social media. Like some of the readings suggested, there is no doubt that social media can benefit public diplomacy, using the term engagement is more convenient than helpful in describing what it means in the context of PD. In terms of engagement, what is the outcome that a successful PD social media campaign or program embodies?  One can look at this in a multitude of ways and I'm not sure that merely counting likes, retweets, and Facebook fans says very much about genuine "engagement." (and here I am using the term embedded with my own connotations about what I want it to mean in this situation) How can public diplomats practice good engagement across a broad range of public diplomacy activities when there is no agreement about what it even means to engage and/or engage well?

So in my opinion, the term engagement certainly adds to the ambiguity of PD because whomever happens to be speaking or writing about it (or trying to "practice" it as in public diplomacy) can essentially define it as they wish in any given context.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Week 5 - Logic Models? - Anju

I think that a logic model or other measurement strategy can be a very effective tool to the process of planning and executing a public diplomacy practice. At its most basic level a logic model would deal with discovering the inputs, outputs and outcomes of any type of procedure and can be done on either or both quantitative and qualitative levels. This can be very effective in determining the factor associated with a public diplomacy effort and further logic and evaluation methods can be used part way through the program to determine whether the observed outcomes match the anticipated outcomes of the effort. If these goals are not being met the study can provide useful data to determine whether the program should be changed or removed entirely in favor of a better alternative. This method essentially would create a systematic approach to determine the effectiveness of a public diplomacy effort, much like logic models generally assist in policy development.

Despite these positive efforts, many of the readings discuss common pitfalls of public diplomacy evaluation. The two major factors I could see being problematic would involve both intangible and long term results. Intangible results are often closely linked with qualitative analysis. This could play a major part in the value of an evaluation. To standardize most evaluations it would be required to create a numeric scale or another means of measure, so as to create a format for evaluation and comparison. So intangible elements of public diplomacy like the favorability of a country, the worth or cost of a life, etc. may be difficult to place a value or assign a dollar amount to. Due to this type of result it would be difficult to determine the value of the results with so much subjective reasoning.

Another problem that can develop is the need for longer lengths of time to proceed with an evaluation. This can create a problem with the validity of results which may not mean much for public diplomacy practices if the results of an effort appear 10 years after the study’s completion. If the evaluation is to provide assistance or a catalyst for change, it must be timely and relevant; something that public diplomacy may not be able to accomplish.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Week 5 -- Johnny Harris

2. What kinds of measurement and evaluation techniques do you think would be most valuable to improve the practice of PD?

The evaluation of PD programs is essential for there to be improvement and increased effectiveness. Since PD practices are often intangible and difficult to measure intuitively, lacking an objective system for evaluation and accountability could give practitioners a false sense of success. Thus, a rigorous and consistent evaluation scheme should be built into each PD program. While costly, constant accountability will lead to greater vigilance in execution and an awareness of best practices that are worth the cost—especially over time.

Adopting evaluation methods from business and other strategically profitable enterprises is crucial when devising evaluation methods. Businesses operate in a competitive economic environment where failure to improve can me failure to exists. Thus, for-profit enterprises often employ efficient and effective evaluation methods to ensure improvement. Conversely, within most PD programs contexts (e.g. government bureaus and non-profit organization) profit incentives are not built into the operations, thus slowing the evolution evaluation techniques. Adopting for profit evaluation models is a must.

In Banks’ resource guide to PD, he offers several key techniques to ensure effective evaluation. First, he highlights the importance of high-level buy in. The leaders of the program must believe initially in evaluation. In this way, leaders will be willing to allocate resources toward evaluation of the program. Along these same lines, evaluation needs to be built into the program from the very beginning. This way it will be integrated into the very planning. Collecting appropriate data during the process is key to an effective evaluation as opposed to adding on the evaluation at the end. Furthermore, building in an evaluation component from the beginning communicates a standard of accountability to employees. Employees are prepared to provide observation and act upon feedback. It psychologically embeds the idea of improvement into a program.

Evaluation must have an objective sense of action in the conclusion. To achieve this, there needs to be an independent evaluator. There should be “actionable data;” data that has power to communicate results. But even when an independent source provides action-based analysis to a PD program, leaders of that program must distribute, review and plan based on the recommendations.

There are many components to effect evaluation. For this reason, evaluation seems like a resource-consuming practice with little accessible benefits. However, if including the fundamental techniques explored above, a PD program evaluation can be a catalyst to information and improvement that could have a significant effects on a program.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Week IV George Kosmidis

What do you think are the key traits and skills required by a public diplomacy officer. Do

you think these may have changed since the Cold War?

Public diplomacy officers require a skill set and traits that are not necessarily consistent with

non-appointed and appointed government officials in diplomatic professions. In order to be

effective, public diplomacy officers have to be more fluid than these other officials. Their

fluidity is not a weakness, but rather a strength. This fluidity allows public diplomacy officers

to implement ideas such as educational programs, strategic communication outreach, and

cultural exchanges without the pressure that might be felt by a Foreign Service officer or other

diplomatic official. Additionally, public diplomacy officers have a different mission compared

to their diplomatic counterparts. Their mission is not to directly implement policy or lobby for

direct inter-state cooperation but rather to implement programs and establish networks that will

increase these relations at an ad-hoc basis.

The concept of how public diplomacy has been practiced and its mission has changed

significantly since the Cold War. The traits and skills of public diplomacy officers then and now

are similar but the mission is different. The overall goal of public diplomacy officers is to engage

communities outlined with elements of both US and local cultures. Despite this, the target

audience may have changed but the skills required to succeed as public diplomacy officers and to

have these programs succeed is still the same. For example, the idea and concept of establishing

an educational exchange program with a university in Moscow in 1975 and a university in Italy

in 2014 would require the same set of skills and traits on behalf of a public diplomacy officer.

The mission and approach would be different however, the same tenacity, tact, and networking

skills would still be required of the public diplomacy officer.

Week 4 -- Johnny Harris

Do you think public diplomacy officers should be required to get more training than ‘traditional’ Foreign Service Officers? Why?

The Foreign Service attracts professionals from many different background to its ranks. For this reason, the diplomatic core of the United States is composed of a highly diverse set of skills, opinions and backgrounds. This is largely a benefit, such that the current testing and training process should not change to include a more uniform training for prospective diplomats. 

The foreign service testing process is a multi step process that is based on 13 characteristics or "dimensions" that all diplomats should possess to be successful. Admission into the service has no educational or work requirement attached. Thus, a candidate at any level can be successful. The lack of training requirements reduces barriers and allows a large swathe of professionals to apply. Furthermore, while the testing process is rigorous, it is not time consuming. It is meant to evaluate existing skills instead of attempting to train candidates in new skills. This encourages professionals from all backgrounds to apply. 

The lack of uniform training and requirements makes the Foreign Service a diverse group of professionals who all bring different skills to the table. This perpetuates a more robust and agile diplomatic core. Instead of being trained in one uniform way, Foreign Service Officers (FSO) are versed in a variety of problem solving tasks that they bring from their previous experience in many different sectors. Such skills are essential when local conditions are so unpredictable abroad. Attempting to develop a uniform diplomatic certification would inevitably fall short of capturing the variation across the world's posts. Instead, the Foreign Service attracts individuals who can adapt and learn once on the ground. 

The institution of a long-term training credential or certification for diplomats would discourage a large swathe of talent from applying to be FSOs. The rigorous yet open application process allows professional to pursue careers in other fields and then bring those skills into the Foreign Service where they can be honed and applied to a variety of diplomatic functions abroad. 

The Foreign Service should not fundamentally alter its application process. The process attracts talented professionals and evaluates them on baseline criteria. For this reason, the Foreign Service is comprised of a diverse and talented group of diplomats.